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Asia, Tibet, Himalaya, Gaurishankar, Northeast Ridge Attempt

Gaurishankar, northeast ridge attempt. The noted American mountaineer, John Roskelley, and his son Jess aimed to make the first ascent of Gaurishankar (7,134m) from its Tibetan side. The mountain defeated them as it had at least three earlier attempts from the north. [Although Don Whillans 1964 British expedition approached the Tibetan side of the mountain from Nepal and attempted the north face to northwest ridge, the northeast ridge was not attempted until 1997, when Japanese, Yasushi Yamanoi and his wife Takeo Nagao, climbed the ridge to 6,300m, at which point the way ahead looked steep, narrow and highly corniced. They retreated. The following year another Japanese team with the same objective failed to reach the base of the mountain—Ed.]

On a clear day the mountain is visible from Kathmandu on the northeastern horizon and was thought to be the world’s highest mountain until the British Survey of India made more careful measurements. The first ascent was made from Nepal by John Roskelley himself in May 1979 via the southwest face, the feature seen from Kathmandu. However, the main summit (Shankar) of Gaurishankar has only been summited twice since Roskelley's success.

The Roskelleys were unable to get very far in their efforts on one of its northeast ridges, of which there are several. Their ridge comprised unstable rocks, “like a house of cards” and some of these had huge icicles hanging from them. John and Jess gave up at only 5,450m due to the dangerous terrain and the difficulty of the climb, which appeared to get worse the more they ascended.

Elizabeth Hawley, AAC Honorary Member, Nepal